Johnson County Crisis Center looks to expand

BY ANNA EGELAND | JULY 20, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Johnson County Crisis Center might have room for expansion soon.

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors on Thursday morning decided to continue discussing the center's acquisition of additional space at the now-vacant former site of the Johnson County Public Health Department, 1105 Gilbert Court.

The Public Health Department moved to 855 S. Dubuque St. in January 2009, leaving the old space empty. Supervisors initially approached Crisis Center officials in 2009 to ask if they wanted the location.

Becci Reedus, the executive director of the Crisis Center, said the center could not take on the project when initially approached, but the organization became serious about acquiring the space a year ago.

The Crisis Center — which serves approximately 18,000 clients annually — plans to share the building with three other nonprofit organizations. Reedus said the building will be shared with the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Johnson County, the Domestic Violence Intervention Program, and the free-lunch program, which will use half of the space.

Reedus said the collaboration made the project, commonly referred to as the "1105 project," more appealing to the supervisors when Crisis Center officials first submitted a formal proposal in April. 
"That's the big news item: It's a collaboration," Reedus said.

The Board of Supervisors discussed the 20-year contract with Reedus at the meeting Thursday.

Supervisor Janelle Rettig stressed the importance of leaving the contract open to renting the space to for-profit agencies at Thursday's meeting.

"I would like that to remain in case something came up and you wanted to do it … It doesn't mean you'd ever have to use it, but at least you'd have it in there in case," she said.

Supervisor Rod Sullivan said he thought the contract seemed reasonable.

"Essentially to me, [the] Crisis Center is the one that's been accepting the risks," he said.

Reedus said they hope to have the new building ready in the spring after it undergoes an extensive renovation. The Crisis Center was awarded a community development block grant fund for fiscal 2013 from Iowa City to cover $160,000 of renovation. The award was finalized at a City Council meeting on May 15.

According to the Crisis Center's proposal, released in April, this block grant represents a 20 percent investment in the project. The Crisis Center submitted a $50,000 bid to the supervisors, according to the 2012 proposal.

Reedus said the approximate construction costs are estimated to be $800,000 and the four organizations are running a joint capital campaign to help raise enough money to cover the remaining renovation costs.

"All four agencies will be hoping to save money … there is no downside [to the project]," Reedus said.

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